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  • Don Anderson

Ethnicity, ethnicity…Oh, the changing shape of ethnicity!

February 7, 2021

Before January 3, 2014, the only information to be had on my birth father? He was Native American. When my Ancestry DNA test results arrived, I was thrown for a loop. Why, you may ask…

I was staring at my PC screen in disbelief.



46% Irish, 33% Great Britain, 12% Scandinavia, Europe West 4%, Iberian Peninsula 3%, Finland, and finally, NW Russia and Middle East at less than 1% each. Where was the Native American? Where?? Nowhere!

For 48 hours, I was in Ethnic Trauma!!


As an adoptee, I learned to roll with the DNA punches…a skill I became proficient at over the months that followed. More changes? no sweat. I could take it. After each ethnicity adjustment, (Native American, then to Irish, on to Scottish) I would update my family. My oldest daughter said quite calmly (after the third time), “Dad, when you figure out who you are, give us a call”.

Since encountering ethnicity estimates for the first time, Ancestry has made adjustments reflective of their growing database. This area of DNA testing results continues to evolve, hence the use of the word, estimate. The first was in Sept. 2018. The second in Oct. 2019. Bottom line - as more people test, change in estimates will occur. In my case... so far, so good. With change, estimates inch closer to being more accurate. Not all seem pleased with the changes. Just check YouTube for examples.


2020 became a banner year for ethnicity updates, primarily at Ancestry. More regions were added in different parts of the world based on more test participants added to their database. The results were dramatic in some cases. For me, discovering a jaw dropping shift in the numbers…left me speechless and over the moon… at the same time! 79% Scotland, 13% England and Northwestern Europe, 6% Ireland, and 2% Germanic Europe. What!!?

The third time’s the charm….


Little did I know the purchase of my kilt in 2015 would be a wise investment!




I might mention that all of the companies I tested with have had updates as well and reported the following Celtic related ethnicity estimate totals in 2020: (regions associated with Celtic origins)


Ancestry – 98%

Family Tree DNA – 94%

23andMe – 93.3%

My Heritage – 95%

Living DNA – 98%


And still no mention of Native American…………………..

The word ‘ethnicity’ evokes different associations for different people. We tend, as a society, to seek for and cling to, what part of the world and which group we identify with. That’s human nature. While desperately seeking to know which Clan I belonged to, a wise sage simply said – “We all started out from Africa.” In other words, we all had origins in the same location to begin with. Over time, the African diaspora occurred, with different groups migrating to different parts of our world.


Ancestry focused on an effective sales tactic – discovering your ethnicity using only your saliva. A stroke of marketing genius. Just look at the amount of people that have taken the plunge (estimated between 34 and 36 million have tested)

For most of us, the need to belong is the driving force behind the sales, and in turn, motivates. testing continues to hone in on more specific answers as to where our forbearers were 500 to 1,000 years ago.


Once my Celtic ties were discovered, desiring to know where my ancestors came from became a driving force. Claiming my ethnicity became an irresistible draw. As I see it, the titles ‘Celtic’ ‘Irish’, ‘Scot-Irish’ ring true descriptively. Celtic Nations flag below:




However, being ethnically identified simply as ‘Scottish’ says it all. Royal flag of Scotland below:




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